Firearm sales soar in Douglas County as virus fears grow

Sam Hango summed it up succinctly when it came to how good recent firearms sales have been at Umpqua Survival in Roseburg.

“Every day this week, we’ve made more money than we do on a typical Black Friday,” he said on Friday. “Every day.”

He’s not the only sales associate trying to withstand the influx of people in Douglas County purchasing guns and ammunition. Increased firearm sales at places like Umpqua Survival, Waldron’s Outdoor Sports and Sportsman’s Warehouse in Roseburg are trending around the nation in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Even before Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued her “stay at home” order Monday, people around the state were making a run on firearms. Hango said at one point early Friday afternoon, approximately 1,869 firearm background checks were being done statewide.

“We were averaging five or six background checks per day before all of this happened,” store manager Carlos Ortegon said. “Now we’re running at least 14 to 15 every day.”

Signs of that showed in the store. Once-full shelves of ammunition needed restocking, and places where semi-automatic firearms once sat on display were empty.

Brown’s executive order “closes and prohibits shopping at specific categories of retail businesses, for which close personal contact is difficult to avoid, such as arcades, barber shops, hair salons, gyms and fitness studios, skating rinks, theaters, and yoga studios,” according to a press release distributed by the governor’s office.

Representatives at Waldron’s and Umpqua Survival said they feel they fill the role as an essential business and will remain open.

“As long as I know I’m getting deliveries, I’ll be here,” Ortegon said Monday.

National and worldwide events suggest people’s concern. This past week, grocery stores across the country, and even locally, ran out of items like toilet paper, canned and dry goods and bread. Stores have adjusted hours to limit the number of items people are purchasing.

Nationally, fears heightened when New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell signed a coronavirus emergency order earlier this month allowing her to ban the sale and transportation of firearms. Champaign, Illinois, Mayor Deborah Frank Feinen signed a similar order.

Sportsman’s Warehouse, located in the Roseburg Marketplace, has a much higher inventory capacity for guns and ammo than Umpqua Survival but faced similar inventory problems Friday. Some of the ammunition shelves were bare. The three associates working behind the store counter were scrambling to help the 12 people waiting for assistance or looking to make a purchase. The store was also extremely low on inventory for dried or dehydrated foods.

The store also has a posted sign outside its front door telling customers it will limit purchases of guns and ammo, powders and primers while not allowing returns on things like dehydrated foods, generators, guns, gun powders and ammo. After Brown’s announcement Monday, the store reduced its daily hours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Tom Kress, co-owner of Waldron’s, faced similar problems at his store. Although he said his store has seen a 20% uptick in sales of guns and ammo, his supplier of dehydrated foods stopped distributing its product to retail outlets like his, opting instead for online-only sales.

He said the last time he remembered such an uptick in sales of guns and ammo was in December of 2012 after the re-election of former President Barack Obama. But this is the first time he’d witnessed such a run on dried foods.

“I don’t know if it was because people were scared there wouldn’t be anything left at the grocery store or if it was something else,” he said. “That’s a new one.”

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